Remarks During Meet and Greet in New Delhi, India

John Kerry
Secretary of State
American Embassy School
New Delhi, India
August 31, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you. Wow, thank you. How are you?



AUDIENCE: Namaste.

SECRETARY KERRY: Nice to see everybody. Thank you very much. You guys staying dry? (Laughter.) I’ve been in a lot of floods – by the way, if your ambassador thinks an hour and a half in gridlock is quality time, he’s got to rethink (laughter) – anyway, I am really delighted to be here and I understand some of you have been here since about 2:30 this afternoon, but you couldn’t think of anything better to do, right? (Laughter.)

Thank you. I appreciate it. How many grades do we have here? What’s the lowest grade? You’re raising your hand. Fourth grade? Fourth grade is the lowest grade?

AUDIENCE: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY KERRY: First grade? Pre. Wow. Okay, so all the pre-K, you guys raise your hands. All pre-K. How many? Nobody? (Laughter.)

Okay, way over here. Alright, we’re going to raise her hand for her. There we go. Yay. (Laughter.) And all the way up to what grade? You guys.

AUDIENCE: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Twelfth grade? So SATs and all that fun? You guys ready? Or you’ve taken them now, haven’t you? Don’t you take them the year before?


SECRETARY KERRY: Okay, so now you get to do applications. Parents, have fun. (Laughter.) I can joyfully tell you I have finished that. But it’s – it’s a great experience, it really is, and I wish you well. All of you.

I know – well, let me begin, first of all, by thanking Rich. He said that we’ve known each other for 15 years, and it really is true. I – we met in the United States Senate where he was working for – I think it was Tom Daschle, if I’m correct. And then Harry Reid. He was working in the majority leader’s office of the United States Senate. And then he became the liaison of the State Department with the Congress, as an assistant secretary, serving for three years, and then the State Department before he was appointed to come out here.

So you have, literally, one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and absolutely capable ambassadors anywhere in the world. And that is appropriate because this is one of the largest embassies in the world. I think there are about 1,000 local employees and some 200 – almost 250 direct hire folks who are here; 65 families serving in the embassy directly, so I congratulate you and him. And I’m particularly grateful, Rich, for your tremendous stewardship. I can tell you safely that with the dialogue – the discussions we had yesterday in the two-day – in the Security and Commercial Dialogue[1] that we’ve been engaged in, it is no exaggeration to tell you this is the best meetings I’ve ever had with Indian counterparts.

We are doing more and doing it better and I really credit that to all of you, every one of you in the embassy and to our ambassador, and to our great DCM, MaryKay Carlson. MaryKay, where are you? MaryKay. MaryKay worked with me – (applause) – yes. Thank you for the applause for our DCM. MaryKay Carlson was what was called the deputy executive secretary and the executive secretariat of the State Department, which basically is responsible for getting me wherever I go with whatever I need when I get there. And if you know my travel habits, folks, that’s the hardest job in the State Department. (Laughter.) So I thank her very, very much and we’re blessed to have her out here.

I understand I’m following the Dalai Lama. (Laughter.) That’s a hard act to follow, folks. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to do that. I’ve had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama many times over the years. Maybe, gosh, 25, 30 years ago, I sat with the Dalai Lama in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a house, and listened to him for several hours talking, and I met him many times as a United States Senator. My schedule has not allowed me to yet meet him because I was out of town when he came to Washington last time, but it’s a great privilege that he came here and I think it’s a great tribute to the school.

Let me just say a word about this school. You are blessed to have one of the great directors, Ellen Stern, as Rich said, in the American embassy school system. And this school – I know its motto, I think, is “Enter to learn and learn to serve.” And I got to tell you, that is really what it is all about – learning, getting a good education that is broad in lots of subjects, is the gateway to knowledge and ultimately wisdom, and we need a lot of wisdom right now in order to solve some of the problems of the world.

So you all are blessed to be in an extraordinary school that I know talks about the joyful pursuit of learning, and the pursuit of excellence, and it makes all the difference in the world to be able to be part of an education system like this. And my congratulations – where are all the teachers? All the teachers are you – you’re all over there. Look at all the teachers up there, and sitting down here. I love you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

I’ll share a little inside information: I am not only the son of a Foreign Service officer, so I know what it was like to pack up the bags, or in my case I was young enough to (inaudible) packed for me, and to be trundled off to somewhere that I really didn’t know where it was, and completely new culture, new language, new experiences that I will tell you now, after all these years of experience in my life, I can’t think of anything more valuable than being exposed to another country, to other people, to different ethnicities, different languages. And it will serve you for the rest of your lives. And if you don’t do anything else in school, please come out proficient in two or more languages, because nothing is more important than being able to communicate with people and, by the way, your parents will be thrilled because your value in the job market goes way up. Okay? (Laughter.) So I advise you, whatever the language is, pursue it and know it, because it’s one of the most valuable things in the world today.

We take it for granted – I’ll tell you something. I’ve been struck by this lately. I was in Southeast Asia recently to do the Southeast Asian – the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian countries, and we sat there with the ministers of Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia, and Indonesia, and Brunei, and so forth, and guess what? The entire meeting was conducted in English. No translation. And this happens again and again wherever we go. We should not take that for granted, believe me. Don’t take it for granted that everybody is going to speak it and therefore, and besides, you can’t know a country if you don’t read the newspaper, listen to TV, talk to people, and know what’s going on.

So that’s my advice today. That’s the end of my advice. I just wanted to give you a little bit of advice, but it’s a great experience. I do want to single out – I don’t know if Vikram -- is Vikram Mahajan here? Anywhere? Vikram. Now, let me say a word. Vikram is standing up. I want everybody to note that Vikram is going to be retiring this October, that he has worked 38 years for the United States embassy here. Thank you and God bless. Thank you, man. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very, very much.

And is (inaudible) here? (Inaudible.) He’s driving a car right now. He’s doing his work. Well he has worked for 32 years here, which is a long period of time, and if any of you see him, tell him we gave him a shout-out here and that he’s a very important guy and we appreciate what he does.

I have one quick message for everybody. I am blessed to be the Secretary of State and to lead an extraordinary department of 70,000 people in countries all around the world – embassies, in consular posts, in (inaudible), different kinds of activities, (inaudible), Civil Service, people who serve with one agency or another on a temporary basis, the United States armed forces who serve with us and keep us safe and help us, Marine security detachments – and it’s an extraordinary family, and I want to thank you profoundly on behalf of President Obama, on behalf of the American people, on my own behalf, because you are serving your nation in a very special way in a very difficult time. We all know the challenges we face in the world today. But I will tell you unequivocally, after 29 years in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now almost four as Secretary of State, never, ever before have I seen the United States of America leading, engaged on as many issues in as many different places simultaneously and making a difference. Whether it is producing the first generation of children who will be born AIDS-free in Africa because of PEPFAR, whether it’s stopping Ebola in its tracks, which we did when they predicted a million people would die Christmas a year ago, whether it’s our efforts in peacekeeping and peacemaking, what we’re doing to try to bring the parties together in Syria to get a ceasefire and stop the carnage, what we’re doing to try to end the war in Yemen, to try to rebuild Libya, to try to fight Daesh, ISIL, and countering violent terrorism across the globe. What we do for education, for health care, to fight against the spread of nuclear weapons, the Iran nuclear agreement that we reached to stop a country from proceeding down the path to nuclear weaponry, what we’re doing today to try to isolate North Korea and do that to protect the South China Sea, to be able to create rules of commerce and trade and the TPP – run the list, and there is no time in history where our leadership has been as critical as it is today. And it’s not just President Obama and me and Rich and a few of us. It’s everybody, all of you – the person in the consular department who goes to that window and greets somebody who needs a visa in order to visit our country, or solves a problem, or brings a relative to them. You may be the only face of America they will ever touch or see. And you will make a difference in their lives.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who, unfortunately, wake up and go to work and they hate their jobs. They are not blessed to do what we do, which is make a difference in the lives of other people and give something back. That’s the “to serve” part of your education.

So I come here today literally just to, profoundly, say thank you to all of you. Thank you for the sacrifices you make. Thank you for your contribution to our nation. And for those of you who are local employees, thank you for believing in America and believing in our values, which we share with India. Never before has the partnership with India been as strong as it is today, and that is not just because people are waking up to the possibilities of this new world we live in, it’s because we work at it. From Rich Verma to every single one of you, a profound thank you. And to all of you kids, I hope you make it through the puddles, the ponds, get home, and good luck and God bless all of you. Thank you so much. Bye-bye. (Applause.)

[1] Strategic and Commercial Dialogue